I got an email this afternoon from a contact at City A.M. in London asking if I’d like to contribute to a debate piece they are running tomorrow morning. I have written for the paper a couple of times before and they are great to work with, and so I said I’d be happy to add some thoughts.
The question I was responding to was: As its labour dispute intensifies, has France become ungovernable?
France is in the midst of a fuel shortage, widespread transport shutdowns, and a wave of increasingly violent anti-reform protests culminating recently in the firebombing of an occupied police vehicle. Clashes between riot police, masked demonstrators, and burning cars are now commonplace on the evening news, and most every morning we wake to reports of just how much damage has been done to businesses and private property the night before.
But perhaps the worst thing is the incredibly blasé attitude that the French government has taken to this wave of unrest. President Francois Hollande and his ministers have responded with the weakest of Gallic shrugs as if their inability to imagine a solution to the labor crisis is the functional equivalent of there being no solution. They know stopping the riots and strikes is politically unpalatable and so they allow them to continue. The weakness at the top trickles down rendering the entire country functionally ungovernable and primed for collapse.
If it sounds like I am overstating the facts on the ground here in France, I’ve added links to each of the claims from media sources with further details on the crisis here. The problems, and the pathetic government response, are real.
I love France but I cannot stand the weakness of the government in the face of union threats. It’s incredibly sad that such a small proportion of the population – only 8% of the workforce at most – has been given such power in the economy.